Joint Base SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas — At installations around the world Airmen are working together to increase awareness, prevent and care for the victims of sexual assault, with a variety of events underway in observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Air Force Personnel Center officials said.
From the commander in chief to the first-line supervisor, leaders must be committed every day of the year to preventing sexual assault and maintaining an environment that is respectful of others, said Jacqueline Shiflet, an official with AFPC Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Operations.
“Throughout the Air Force, we are committed to eradicating disrespectful, harmful and dangerous treatment, and Sexual Assault Awareness Month activities provide us with an additional avenue to increase awareness,” she said.
The Air Force SAPR program was formalized in 2005, and the program has grown in scope and focus since then.
“Education and training help us achieve our awareness and prevention goals, but since 2005, we’ve seen changes that have enabled us to really help people who have been assaulted. For one thing, we have an Expedited Transfer and Special Victims Council that exists solely to support victims.”
In addition, Department of Defense officials are using technology to support the program. The DOD SafeHelpline is a live chat resource victims can use to find the nearest sexual assault response counselor.
“SARCs work diligently to help those who have been harmed and educate their base populations to help prevent future assault and harassment,” Shiflet said. “While we have overarching policies, education and training programs and response guidance, it is the base-level advocates who are doing the heavy lifting.”
The Air Force provides the framework upon which bases build their programs, she said. The pillars of the Air Force SAPR program are awareness and prevention training, education, victim advocacy, response, reporting and accountability.
“We promote awareness with a consistent marketing program implemented at every level so that all Airmen know that sexual assault exists and is intolerable,” Shiflet said. “Training and education coupled with awareness help prevent sexual assault, harassment and abuse because unacceptable behaviors are clearly identified and consequences are communicated.”
Education and training begin with an Airman’s entry in service and continue consistently throughout his or her career.
“We work to ensure all basic training, technical training and professional military education programs include SAPR awareness and prevention information. Annual refresher training, accessions training, pre-deployment training and newcomer’s training round out the classroom program,” Shiflet said.
Victim advocacy is a critical component of the program, and base-level volunteers are the key to its success.
“Base SARC members recruit, screen, interview and select Airmen who, once trained, will serve as victim advocates at their installation. They support victims of sexual assault and ensure that they are not alone as they go through the response, recovery and accountability process,” Shiflet said.
Swift, decisive response to an assault and holding perpetrators accountable is the basis for program credibility, Shiflet said.
“Empathetic, supportive response to a victim is the first step toward their healing, but holding perpetrators accountable for their crime is the critical final piece of the program. Sexual assault is a crime, and criminals must be prosecuted. When we hold perpetrators accountable, it helps victims move forward, and sends the clear message to all that sexual crimes will not be tolerated.”
For more information about base-level SAPR programs, including how to volunteer to be a victim’s advocate, contact your installation SARC. To find the SARC at your installation, go to www.afpc.af.mil/library/sapr and click on the SARC Contacts link in the right hand column.